Looking for Some Real World SEO Training?

Kate: Can you imagine a life where everything was just easy?  You know, like where you ask for things, and then people just bring them to you?

Jack: It’s wonderful…

– “The Family Man” (2000)

Ah yes, wouldn’t it be nice if you could read some sage bit of Search Engine Optimization or Digital Marketing advice, call in one of your well trained staff members, ask them to implement and simply wait for them to bring you the results?

Welcome to the Real World

picture of man who's overwhelmed by the thought of SEO training

Is SEO training just one more thing on your plate? Then only worry about the essentials!

I don’t know about you, but that ain’t the business world I operate in.  I grew up in small business, literally, and I’ve spent the last 35+ years in a world where managing a business or a department tends to be like fighting 5 fires in a high wind with a garden hose and a shovel.

Taking time away from all the other concerns of a hectic day to become an expert in SEO simply isn’t an option for most small business managers.  If you’re like me, you long for information that is stripped down to the essentials.

It’s to fill that need in SEO that we created a new online training course called “Real World SEO: Essentials.”  This course is designed to cut through all the stuff that no one in the “real world” will ever do and focus on the meaningful concepts and the realistic actions most busy small businesses CAN take based on knowing those concepts.

The course is divided into 9 modules and is approximately 6 hours of video training.

Who is the Course For?

Business owners and managers

This course wasn’t just designed for business owners.  It is designed for ANYONE who has to get their website seen while managing other business operations.

Independent web developers

It’s also a perfect class for Web developers who need to perform SEO for their clients but need to focus ONLY on the essentials that will have the best shot at results.

Marketing professionals

Finally, if you’re a marketing professional who is expected to manage, or simply know about, Search Engine Optimization, this course is a compact way to bring you up to speed on those concepts that will benefit your clients and put you ahead of most other marketing agencies who are after their SEO business.

Get the First 3 Modules for Free

Already know you want the full course?  Sign up here and take $50 off (this introductory offer is only good through January 31st, 2017)

 Try it Out for Free

We know how valuable your time is, otherwise you probably wouldn’t have been interested in the premise of this post.  So instead of forcing you to commit to a purchase of the full 9 modules, we’re giving away the first 3 absolutely free.  Once you sign up you’ll also get a downloadable free bonus: our SEO Workflow Journal, a template similar to what our agency uses for managing an SEO project.

The free sampler we’re giving away carries a double benefit: Not only will you have an idea of the value of the training before you purchase the full course, but regardless of whether you get the full course, you’ll get valuable and actionable insights.

What you’ll learn in Real World SEO: Essentials

Get the First 3 Modules for Free

Already know you want the full course?  Sign up here and take $50 off (this introductory offer is only good through January 31st, 2017)

Module 1 – Introduction (34 minutes)

  • The Starting Point: pragmatic SEO
  • Be ready to roll up your sleeves and do some work
  • Expectations for the course
  • What you will need
  • What the goals of the course are

Module 2 – Basic Understanding (22 minutes)

  • How search engines find web pages
  • How they organize and store web page content
  • The anatomy of a SERP
  • Why certain sites are ranked higher than others

Module 3 – Evaluating Your Website (36 minutes)

  • How to evaluate your current website
  • The importance of KPI’s
  • Getting started with Google Analytics and Google Search Console
  • Resources for evaluating your website such as Open Site Explorer

Module 4 – Make it Search Engine Friendly (SEF) (62 minutes)

  • What SEF means
  • How to check for health problems using Google Search Console (GSC)
  • How to create an XML sitemap and let Google know about it, also using GSC
  • What a robots.txt file is, and why you need to check yours

Module 5 – Keyword Research (58 minutes)

  • Why keyword research is foundational to SEO success
  • How to do keyword research using Google’s “keyword planner”
  • How to determine whether a keyword is really competitive
  • Why “themes” are more important than “keywords”
  • How to set priorities for your SEO using your keyword research

Module 6 – Relevancy (56 minutes)

  • The important principle of “relevancy”
  • Key parts of the page for SEO
  • How to optimize a page for relevancy
  • What Panda is, and how to check your content for Panda-proof quality
  • The importance of a content-creation strategy

Module 7 – Authority (43 minutes)

  • The second pill ar of SEO success: Authority
  • What PageRank is and how it changed the search engine game
  • The impact of Google’s Penguin updates
  • Link-building basics

Module 8 – Conversion Optimization (27 minutes)

  • Why visits are meaningless without conversion
  • What factors keep people from taking action on your website
  • What conversion boosters will help you to get the most out of your SERP rankings
  • How higher conversions can also help your organic SEO efforts

Module 9 – Managing Your SEO (21 minutes)

  • Learn the difference between urgent and important
  • How to avoid SEO paralysis
  • How to get the most out of the SEO Journal that we provide as a bonus
  • What options are available to you to take your study of SEO and Internet Marketing to the next level

Bonus Materials

  • Sample SEO Workflow Journal (a handy team document for tracking and managing your SEO)
  • Google Special Search Operators for Keyword Research
  • Match Type cheat sheet to help you get the most out of Google’s Keyword Plan

Get the First 3 Modules for Free

Already know you want the full course?  Sign up here and take $50 off (this introductory offer is only good through January 31st, 2017)

2-Minute SEO: A New Video Series from Horizon Web Marketing

picture of stop watch to illustrate 2-minute SEO video blogHey, got a minute?

Or maybe two?  One thing that’s in ever shorter supply is time.  We deal with dozens of business people.  Managers, owners, marketing execs, even office workers and customer service reps.  No one has extra time.

But here’s the challenge in digital marketing: it depends on knowledge.  Make a mistake and the market will punish you.  Make a different kind of mistake and your competitors will punish you.  Make an even different kind of mistake and Google will punish you.

At Horizon Web Marketing our practice is built on SEO and related forms of digital media.  We know firsthand how frustrating it is for business people to know even what “SEO” is (other than to search on the acronym and find out it means “Search Engine Optimization”), much less to make use of it to promote their websites.

And so, we decided to try for an achievable educational goal for our clients: a series of videos that we have dubbed “2-Minute SEO.”  The videos are stripped to the bone to help non-SEO-professionals to understand what they need to know about SEO.

Our first set of 10 videos examines 10 of the most frequently asked questions (FAQs) that we get about SEO.  In future videos we will examine not only the “frequently” asked questions, but the “should” ask questions that will make you empowered in buying and managing your digital marketing efforts.

Sign up for our e newsletter to stay in touch with new releases.  Our goal is to release 1 new video every week.  Since we also do SEO training, our videos are designed to instruct, not to give you a sales pitch.  So sit back and enjoy that SEO ride.

To see our current selection of 2-minute SEO videos: click here.

 

Ross Barefoot is the Chief Technology Officer at Horizon Web Marketing. In his work with Horizon Ross brings 35 years of small business management experience, 25 years programming experience, 20 years web development experience, and 13 years experience as a professional SEO. Ross is also currently a certified SEO trainer with the Search Engine Academy and serves on its board of directors.
      

Using Google’s Search Location Setting. Buyer Beware!

Personalization and Localization of Search

Location marker illustrating local searchOver the years we’ve noticed increasing personalization of search. This is the practice followed by search engines of providing one set of search results to one searcher and a different set to another searcher even though they are entering the exact same search query.

Related to personalization is localization. I normally lump localization of search and personalization of search in the same category because they both do the same thing: customize search results to better fit the intent of the individual searcher.

Whenever you perform a search, you are connecting to the Internet using an I.P. Address, or number. This is a unique number that identifies your Internet connection. I.P. numbers are typically identifiable in general geographic locales. For example if I connect to the Internet here in my office in Grand Junction, Colorado and do a search on Google, even though Google can’t see who I am, they can see that my I.P. number is based in Grand Junction.  This allows Google to display search results that take into account my searching location. Google will favor, sometimes strongly, Grand Junction business websites based on my location.

This presents a bit of a challenge for an Internet professional such as myself, since I work with businesses all over the country and I need to see how well they rank for a Google search.

In the past the Google search location settings have come to my rescue. I can conduct a search, click on “Search Tools,” and set my location to “Las Vegas NV,” for example. (See screen capture below)

screen shot example of using search tools for location override

Search Location Override Isn’t What it Used to Be

But this method is no longer effective for me, because it appears that Google is displaying a different set of results based on whether I specify my search location or let them determine it automatically from my i.p. number.

This creates a problem for a business owner or marketing professional who is wondering just how visible their company website is on a Google search within a particular geographic region, especially if they are not physically in the area they are checking.

Let’s look at the following example, based on one of our own clients. The client in question is the dominant mover in the Las Vegas market, Move 4 Less. Move 4 Less is a local Las Vegas company that regularly beats out national competitors in search results. If I run a search for “Moving Companies” from my Western Colorado location with my search tools set to “Las Vegas Nevada,” here’s what I will see:

Example of search on Google from Grand Junction

Our client shows below the 7-pack, way below the fold in my Colorado search, even thought I’ve specified a location of Las Vegas NV.

 

A Physical Search in Las Vegas is Dramatically Different

Here’s the same search conducted by my colleague Matt from his desktop in Las Vegas.  Note how our client is showing up smack in the middle of the local results (the so-called 7-pack), which is far higher on the page:

from_las_vegas_user_matt_campbell_location_not-set2

 

What Takes Priority in Google’s World?

The physical location is not trumping the location setting in Google Search tools, it appears to be the other way around.  The Search tools setting is actually over-riding the results given by a plain-vanilla search conducted in the physical region.  How do I know?  Note this last screen shot.  It is the same search done from the Las Vegas location, but with the Search tools setting set to “Las Vegas.”  Here the geographic data is trumped and distorted in a very unpredictable way, showing a set of results identical to those I got in Colorado:

 

 

screen capture showing Google search with location hard coded

Search setting trumps physical location. But why it produces the results it does is anyone’s guess.

Conclusion

The take away from all of this is simple: don’t trust your own searches – or even your own eyeballs – when it comes to evaluating how visible your Website is in Google searches.  Many businesses obsess over “Googling” their “money” keyword terms, but this is such an imperfect way to measure it’s becoming almost useless.  There are better ways to determine visibility in Google search results, but I’ll leave those for another post.

(Or, if you can’t wait for that future post, either hire Horizon Web Marketing to do some consulting for you, or sign up for one of the SEO workshops that I’ll be teaching in Las Vegas this year.)

Ross Barefoot is the Chief Technology Officer at Horizon Web Marketing. In his work with Horizon Ross brings 35 years of small business management experience, 25 years programming experience, 20 years web development experience, and 13 years experience as a professional SEO. Ross is also currently a certified SEO trainer with the Search Engine Academy and serves on its board of directors.
      

The Yelp Review Filter

Are you a business who depends on local customers?  If you are, then you probably are already keenly aware of the growing importance of client reviews in the health of your business, and the growing importance of Yelp when it comes to reviews.

Yelp icon: Why does yelp filter reviews?

Well yeah, maybe. But a lot of the people who love you on Yelp may never show up to your customers!

But have you ever had this happen?  A client tells you that they left you a nice review on Yelp.  Pleased and encouraged, you visit your Yelp page to see what they wrote.  You look and look and…to your confusion you can’t find their review anywhere?

If you know what we’re talking about you’re one of the many small businesses who have had their valuable Yelp reviews filtered.

Why Does Yelp Filter Reviews?

So why does Yelp filter reviews? They don’t trust the authenticity of them, because well, many of the reviews left on Yelp are fakes.

Now, while it’s understandable that Yelp would try to filter out fake reviews, it’s unfortunate that they do such a crappy job of it. For one of my clients, Yelp didn’t trust 21 of 24 reviews that legitimate Yelpers left on their site.  In fact, they filtered out all of this company’s positive reviews and only left 3 negative reviews.

Here’s how to see those phantom reviews.  Visit your business listing on Yelp.  Then scroll down to the section that says “About this Business.”  Right above that you might seem a line that says “[number] other reviews that are not currently recommended” (see screen capture, below).

screen capture of Yelp's other reviews button

If you’re missing some reviews that you thought had been placed, go and see if they are parked in Yelp’s “dead letter” graveyard.

Giving Your Reviews their Best Shot at Being Seen

Here’s how you can avoid having your best reviews end up in this lonesome place where no one will read them:

  • Yelp pays more attention to active Yelpers, so talk to your satisfied clients and, if they are looking for a place to leave you a positive review, and if they’ve never been on Yelp before, tell them to leave you a review somewhere else, such as Google+ or Yahoo local.
  • Don’t get a bunch of your customers to submit reviews in a short period of time, that looks artificial to Yelp
  • Try to find customers who are active on Yelp and then encourage only those customers to leave a review on Yelp

Keep in mind that all of the review sites prohibit you from soliciting reviews, so never offer to trade discounts, cash or favors for a positive review.  You can mention that you encourage reviews, but don’t tell them you want “positive” reviews or you could be in trouble with more sites than Yelp.

Have you had an experience, good or bad, with Yelp’s review filter?  We’d love to hear about it in the comments.  And if you’d like help with local search engine optimization, read more about what we offer.

 

 

Ross Barefoot is the Chief Technology Officer at Horizon Web Marketing. In his work with Horizon Ross brings 35 years of small business management experience, 25 years programming experience, 20 years web development experience, and 13 years experience as a professional SEO. Ross is also currently a certified SEO trainer with the Search Engine Academy and serves on its board of directors.
      

Is Your Website Search Engine “Friendly”? (Part I)

6 Questions to Ask that Will Help You Determine Whether Your Website is Search Engine Friendly

You have to crawl before you run, as the saying goes.  And before your website can be “optimized” for search it must be “friendly” to search engines.  That’s where “Search Engine Friendly” comes in.

Most of our business consulting clients have heard of SEO (Search Engine Optimization), and some of them have heard of SEM (Search Engine Marketing), and I’ve blogged about those terms before.  However the one term that very few businesses have encountered is SEF, Search Engine Friendly.

Think of a store as an analogy.  If you want your store to encourage visitors, you’d better have the door unlocked and the lights on, right?  A nice window display and a flashing “open sign” would be nice as well.  I recently shot a brief video to make this point.  Watch the video to get the concept down, and then look below the video for 6 questions you can ask about your website and how to answer them (this post will deal with 2 of these questions, and we’ll deal with the rest of them in part 2 and part 3).  These questions and answers will help you make a quick determination about how friendly your website would be to Google, Bing, Yahoo, or any other search engine.

 

Question 1 – Can a Search Engine Crawl the Pages of Your Website?

To show your pages to searchers, a search engine first has to have your pages in its “index” (i.e. it’s database of web pages).  They use programs called robots or “spiders” to visit your site and find all its pages.  To determine whether the automated programs the search engines use can find your pages, here’s a quick method that is very effective.  Go to http://www.xml-sitemaps.com or a similar site (you can also use a program like Xenu Link Sleuth or Screaming Frog to do this step).

Enter your website homepage (see screen capture below):

screen capture of entering a url to a sitemap generator to check search engine friendliness

 

Once the program does it’s thing it will report results.  Here are the results for the test site I entered (by the way, I have no connection with this site, I chose them randomly for the example):

 

another screen capture of a sitemap generator that only found a single page

Notice how the spider only found 1 page.  This is a big problem.  It means that the site architecture (i.e. the way it’s navigation is structured) creates a huge barrier to search engine spiders.  There are ways to get around this, but they require a fair amount of effort and are always a class b solution.  If you have this problem, you need to find out why and get it fixed immediately.  Consult a developer if you need help, but get it done.

A few possible reasons a spider can’t crawl your website

  • poor url structure
  • flash-based navigation
  • a robots.txt file that is discouraging spiders

Question 2 – Does Your Home Page Load Extremely Slowly?

What do you do if you go to a site and you have to sit there about 10 seconds watching a spinning wheel on your screen instead of seeing the website you want to visit?  If you’re like most people, you hit the back button.  So do the search engines.   But sometimes a page can load slowly for you because you have a lousy internet connection or your computer is loaded up with viruses and malware.  Here’s how to tell if your site is slowly just for you, or for everyone.

Go to http://tools.pingdom.com/fpt/ and plug in your website URL, but don’t hit Enter yet.

Click the “settings” link below the URL field (see below):

screen capture of pingdom to show how to check the load time of your web page

Set the checkpoint to the geographical location nearest you.  Now you can hit Enter or click the submit button.

If your site takes more than a few seconds to load (I would consider anything above 4 to be pretty slow) you have a slow loading site.  You may want to repeat this test several times during the day to make sure it wasn’t an unusual load condition at your website host (although if they regular periods where your site is slow to load you need to get a better hosting provider).  Again, correcting this problem is going to take a developer.

A few possible causes for slow web page load times

  • extremely large images
  • lots of javascript
  • poorly written javascript
  • a poorly configured or overloaded server
  • a web host with too little Internet bandwidth

In our next blog post we will give you two more questions to ask yourself or your developer to determine whether your website is open for business and a friendly place for Google and Bing to visit.

If this post is useful to you, I’d appreciate you giving it a Plus One, a Like on Facebook, or a Tweet!

 

Ross Barefoot is the Chief Technology Officer at Horizon Web Marketing. In his work with Horizon Ross brings 35 years of small business management experience, 25 years programming experience, 20 years web development experience, and 13 years experience as a professional SEO. Ross is also currently a certified SEO trainer with the Search Engine Academy and serves on its board of directors.